Interim head coach Antonio Pierce still has a chance to win the full-time Las Vegas Raiders head coaching job but he may have to compete with a heavy hitter. The team has been linked to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh going back to last year’s coaching search.
Though the team decided to go with Josh McDaniels last year, Harbaugh could still be a possibility now. Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline gave some insight into the relationship between owner Mark Davis and Harbaugh.
“Our sources say Jim Harbaugh and Mark Davis have had a very good relationship for a while now, and the Raiders would be a natural fit, but several factors come into play,” Pauline wrote in a November 30 column.
“First and foremost is the existing regime of Champ Kelly and Antonio Pierce. Some people in the league believe Davis will keep Kelly and Pierce around if the team finishes strong. As mentioned in this article from Nov. 4, there is a groundswell of support for Kelly within the Raiders organization.”
While Harbaugh’s ties to the Raiders make him a logical fit (he was the team’s quarterbacks coach from 2002 to 2003), Pauline pointed out one factor that might steer Davis away from him but did reveal that there is real interest from the franchise.
“There’s also the question of Davis being comfortable with the head coach once again being in full control,” Pauline wrote. “It didn’t work out for the Josh McDaniels-Dave Ziegler team, and Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock had a tough go of it on the personnel side.
“The Raiders have a lot of interest in Harbaugh, yet in the end, it will come down to whoever Mark Davis is listening to and trusts.”
Giving Jim Harbaugh ‘Full Control’ Comes With Risks
As Tony Pauline pointed out, the last two Raiders head coaches had a lot of say over personnel matters, which has led to a lot of poor decisions. Mark Davis may prefer to bring in a general manager who handles personnel while his coach solely focuses on coaching.
It’s hard to imagine a coach like Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t want some say in personnel. Now, that’s not always a bad thing. Andy Reid and Bill Belichick have won a lot of Super Bowls while being the people who make the final call on roster decisions.
However, Harbaugh answered to a general manager during his time as an NFL head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Though he didn’t get along with former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, the two went 44-19 together. There’s no evidence that Harbaugh can manage personnel on the NFL side of things so it is risky to hire him if he wants full control.
Mark Davis Has Tough Decisions Ahead
On the surface, hiring Jim Harbaugh sounds like a no-brainer for Mark Davis. There appears to be mutual interest and he has ties to the franchise. He’s also led his teams to winning records at every stop in both the college and the pros.
The fact that he’s a former player means that he should be able to connect with players better than some other coaches. Antonio Pierce has shown promising signs since taking over for Josh McDaniels but he doesn’t even have two full years of NFL coaching experience. The players love him but it’d be risky to give him the full-time coaching job. It’s going to be a tough offseason for Davis as he can’t afford to hire the wrong coach again.